I’m right in the thick of NaNoWriMo – where writers all around the world are working away feverishly on their computers to start and finish a 50,000 word novel for the month of November.
It’s the first I’ve done it and it’s a blast. Through NaNoWriMo Warriors, I’ve met so many wonderful writers from all over the world and been reminded that writers come in all shapes and sizes, beliefs and ages. It has reinforced for me the fact that you’re never too old, too young or too ‘anything’ to write In fact, the only thing stopping me writing is “me”.
For all my NaNoWriMo friends, this post is for you – it’s about perseverance, love of writing and never letting go of the dream.
Recently, I attended the SCBWI Conference in Sydney where there was a discussion about the fact that teen writers like Steph Bowe and Alexandra Adornetto are breaking into the publishing scene and having a great deal of success.
I say, all power to them. I also say that it doesn’t matter what age you are, you are never too old to write a great novel, short story or whatever you set your mind to.
Which is why I wanted this post to be about saluting Maris Morton, the inaugural winner of the CAL Scribe Fiction Prize. A Darker Music is Maris’s debut novel and at 72 she is seeing her dream of becoming an author realized.
The CAL Scribe Fiction Prize attracted 534 entries with the eldest aged 90 years, 22 entrants born in the 1920s and 64 in the 1930s.
“Winning the CAL Scribe Prize has made what seemed to be an impossible dream come true. I’m still pinching myself. Winning has given me an added incentive to go on doing what I love best: telling stories.”
HOW MARIS “MADE IT”
1. Maris, what inspired you to write A Darker Music and can you tell us a bit about the process?
Once, a long time ago, when I was living in a country town in WA, I heard a woman say that she’d been a violinist before she maried a farmer, but didn’t play any more as her instrument had been accidentally smashed. The idea sat in the back of my mind for a long time, as I imagined the dreadful loss this could have been. Then, after I’d invented Mary Lanyon, the thing began to come together. As I researched both music and the merino business, the story finally came together.
2. What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I enjoy the research as much as the actual writing; I’ve always loved learning. As the characters come to life on the screen it’s easy to get carried away.
The hardest thing was cutting stuff out.
3. What prompted you to enter it in the Scribe Fiction prize? Do you have any tips for new writers thinking of entering writing competitions?
Yes: Do it! After getting rejections for my proto-novels, I tried writing short stories and even poetry, and entering competitions. After winning a few, and getting things published, I felt encouraged to press on. I entered the Scribe Fiction Prize without expecting, or even hoping, to win it.
4. I heard that this novel took twelve years to write. Do you have any tips for writers about persevering? How did you stay focussed on your story during this time?
During the 12 years since I began the first draft of my first novel I’ve worked on four others, so it hasn’t been a matter of staying focussed on any one. As soon as I’ve finished one story I get right into the next one, without waiting for the inevitable rejections. They say it takes ten years to learn a new skill, so one must be patient, and persevere.
5. Mary Lanyon is such a well crafted character. Did you base her on somebody you knew? Can you give us some tips on how you create characters in your stories?
Mary shares my love of gardening and cooking, but she’s her own person. I started inventing her a long time ago, and she’s still evolving – as we all do. Some of my characters are total inventions, dictated by the needs of the story, but others are cut-and-paste jobs, taking bits and pieces from people I’ve met or know well. I usually base their appearance on someone real. Speech patterns are another thing that I base on real people – it’s important to get the rhythms and vocabularies right for each character.
6. Some writers worry that if they are not published by the time they are fifty, it will never happen. Do you have any advice for them?
My advice would be to stop worrying and keep writing, if you really love it. If you don’t, forget it, and take up bridge, or something equally absorbing.
ABOUT A DARKER MUSIC
I have to tell you I loved Maris’s novel, A Darker Music. It’s beautifully written and the prose is as evocative as the music theme that runs through the book.
When Mary Lanyon takes on the job of housekeeper at Downe, a famous Merino stud she discovers a number of secret threads behind Paul Hazlitt and his prize winning fleece. Mary soon develops an empathy with Paul’s estranged wife, Clio and the reader is quickly drawn into their growing relationship.
Clio has just returned from a serious operation in Perth that her husband seems to know nothing about, and as her health continues to deteriorate, her bond with Mary deepens.
Curious by nature, Mary wonders what could have happened to cause the rift between husband and wife and why did Clio give up the music that meant so much to her?
I found myself willing Clio to pick up her Viola again and march off into the sunset, leaving behind her uncaring husband and ambivalent son.
It was difficult not to feel sorry for a woman who had undergone so much tragedy in her life and yet Clio is not a person to wallow in self-pity and this just serves to endear her more to the reader.
As Mary slowly unravels Clio’s secrets, she reveals some of her own and it soon becomes clear that her own marriage to the irresistible but now deceased Roy was far from perfect.
In an isolated existence where it’s hard to find kindred spirits, Clio and Mary form a bond that helps them overcome ghosts of the past and learn important things about themselves and each other.
I found Maris’s story truly inspiring. I hope you did, too.
If you have a story of writing perseverance that you think might encourage others, I’d love to hear about it.
Happy writing and NaNoWriMoing:)